Teaching as fruit
When considering different approaches to teaching physical education content, there has been discussion regarding the value of 'comparing approaches'. Metzler (2005) suggested that there was little value in comparing approaches in research studies because each approach has different learning outcomes. Kirk (2005) supported this view and has championed the use of practice-referenced approaches to research on different teaching approaches which "is concerned with making judgments about the usefulness of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) [or other approaches] for achieving learning appropriate to the model itself and to the circumstances in which it has been applied." (p. 218).
That being said, Metzler and Kirk's comments raise an interesting analogy of teaching to fruit. If we take fruit, there are many different kinds of fruit, and lets face it, many of us do not like every kind of fruit and, moreover, have preferences for specific fruits. For example, my children both like bananas and strawberries but my daughter likes blueberries and my son does not. Vice versa, my son likes oranges and my daughter can take them or leave them.
These notions of fruits, therefore, are very much similar to the various teaching approaches available to teachers and coaches such as TGfU, direct instruction, cooperative learning, sport education, Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility, etc. Not all of your kids are going to like every approach and they may have preferences for certain approaches that you use. However, if you can adopt a variety of approaches to teaching your content, then you will more than likely reach more learners. On the other hand, restricting yourself to one type of teaching (or one fruit) you are assuming that all the learners you are teaching like that one approach (fruit), and this may compromise the ability of your learners to reach their full potential.
Kirk, D. 2005. Future prospects for teaching games for understanding. In Teaching games for understanding. Theory, research and practice, ed. J.I. Butler and L.L. Griffin, 213–27. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Metzler, M.W. (2005). Implications of models-based research for research on teaching: A focus on teaching games for understanding. In Teaching games for understanding. Theory, research and practice, ed. L.L. Griffin and J.I. Butler, 183–97. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
TGfU, the chicken and the egg
I have spent the past few days grading some unit plans which university students created for teaching games activities through the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) approach. One major benefit of teaching through this approach is the ability for teachers to link pupils' tactical understanding (the chicken) to the technical aspects of play (the egg), rather than treat these as two separate entities.
The university students' referred to above had limited prior experiences of teaching tactics, for example, only during game play portions of sport education units and/or during direct instruction units where games were played after technical skill learning. While the students all responded positively to the TGfU approach in principle, some were considerably challenged when having to plan units of work that prefaced 'situated learning' tasks and designing lesson sequences that enabled the tactical aspects of play (the chicken) to come before and/or alongside the technical aspects (the egg).
Turner (2005) recommends that teachers of TGfU follow a lesson sequence, say in a soccer lesson, of:
By focusing the lesson design on leading with the game, followed by questioning and the tactically focused task, this ensures that teachers simply do not default back to isolated 'drills' after the initial game form, as well as miss the questioning period that follows the initial game form, which allows for a Segway to the first tactically focused situated task. Thus, this permits the pupil to develop 'understanding' (the chicken) before the technical skills (the egg), which come later and/or when needed. Moreover, the teacher has at their discretion the ability to modify any of the tasks by changing either the size and/or space of the playing area, the equipment being used, the attacker/defender ratio, the conditions or rules of the task/game, etc. These adaptations therefore make playing the game and/or situated task easier so that 'understanding' (the chicken) is developed in advance of and/or alongside the technical skills (the egg).
As I wrote on a previous post, task design in physical education is very important and in TGfU lessons the importance of good task design is multiplied because of the need to connect tactical understanding (the chicken) with the technical skills (the egg). That said, teachers need to be well versed in the content to be taught (in this case soccer) but also possess (or at least be willing to try to learn by doing) the pedagogies supportive of the TGfU approach, which include following the sequence of tasks laid out above. Resolving potential conflicts between the chicken and egg at a conceptual level is a difficult but necessary step in teaching with TGfU, because without an understanding of the chicken and the egg, teachers will be unlikely to offer the pupils they teach an authentic experience of games.
Turner, A. P. (2005). Teaching and learning games at the secondary level. In L. L. Griffin & J. L. Butler (Eds.), Teaching games for under-standing: Theory, research and practice (pp. 71–90). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
The tourist metaphor
I was in Washington DC this past weekend taking in the plethora of sights that there is to offer. As you may know if you have been to 'DC' there is a lot to cover and I definitely fell foul of trying to see as much as possible in the short space of time I was there. We walked from the hotel to the White House, then to the monument - where we were lucky to find a friendly ranger who allowed us to join the queue and enter the monument and ride to the top! - before moving to the World War II memorial and the Lincoln Memorial where we took some time to rest and reflect on all that we were doing.
As I sat there, I was so pleased we had got to go to the top of the Monument and see everything DC had to offer. As I thought about the journey up to the top and then back down something struck me about what the ranger said in the elevator on the way back down. He said, "if you don't know much about George Washington, then its not an issue, but you may want to take some time to go find out some things about him when you leave here today to understand his affect on American history". As I pondered the rangers (wise) words, I could not help wondering if what I was doing was wrong. I was simply running around trying to see as many sights as possible just so that I could 'tick the box' and that I had 'been there'. What is wrong with this you might ask? In addition, what the heck has this got to do about physical education?
Well my answer is quite easy. Are there times in education where we simply rush learners through the curriculum so they can, like I was doing, get to see all the sights? I would argue, yes. Is education simply about running people through a curriculum, a rite of passage so to speak? Many might say 'yes', but I am sure many would also say 'no'. Education cannot simply about 'getting people through the curriculum' or around all the sights. There must be times for reflection, pauses for contemplation, debate, discussion, further reading and critique in order to simulate higher order thinking and a greater depth of learning. Only then, to me, are we truly educating people and stopping our learners being merely a (not very good) 'tourist', like I was in DC this past weekend.